The Sharks, who had a bye on the opening weekend, get Round 2 of the United Rugby Championship underway as they take on Zebre in Parma on Friday night at 6.30pm, starting an overseas tour that coach Sean Everitt says will have passed muster if they can gather 10 points from the three matches.
After taking on Zebre, who gave powerful Leinster an almighty battle last weekend, the Sharks play Welsh side Dragons at Rodney Parade, before ending their tour in Dublin against Leinster. Not many teams beat the Irish giants at home, so Everitt is clearly targeting wins in their first two games and a couple of bonus points along the way.
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“Zebre have a new coaching staff and are very attack-minded now. They did very well against Leinster and we are very wary of them,” Everitt said. “We obviously have certain things from last season we need to work on.
“We have sorted out our problems and we are a bit more aware now of what to expect, but we will be playing against teams with their full international complement.
“We know the breakdown will be unforgiving and that has been a focus of ours, and also being able to execute from set-piece.
“The goal is to come home with 10 points. The log was really jammed at the top last season, just one to three points separating the teams at the top, so bonus points are crucial,” Everitt said.
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Captain Thomas du Toit was impressed with how the Zebre forwards stood up to the strong Leinster pack.
“They matched Leinster’s scrum very well, they have a lot of plays off their lineout and they are a good mauling side. We’re excited for the challenge, Zebre are obviously a new-look team and that makes them a bit unpredictable. But we are very well prepared,” tighthead prop Du Toit said.
Edinburgh made short work of Dragons
The other matches involving South African sides this weekend see Edinburgh, who made short work of the Dragons last weekend, travel to Loftus Versfeld to take on the Bulls, who narrowly failed to win the URC crown last season, on Saturday at 2.30pm.
The defending champion Stormers open their campaign against Connacht, who beat them by a short head in Galway in February, in Stellenbosch on Saturday afternoon (2.30pm), while the Lions, who competed hard but ultimately fell short against the Bulls last weekend, have travelled to Swansea to take on the Ospreys at 7.35pm in the evening.
Also read: Lions aim to clean up the basics against Ospreys